Child care onus on the government

A Town Crier Community Column

Every week I talk to parents who are trying to find good, affordable childcare. Parents who need to go back to work and find long waiting lists for childcare are under huge pressure.

That’s why there was so much excitement when the provincial government announced they were going to put money into early learning and so much frustration when parents found clumsy implementation threatened the existence of pre-school childcare.

The legislation currently requires the before and after care to be provided in the school, but will ensure the care is in place only if enough parents request it. This means existing childcare centres that walk kindergartners to and from school, and even some already in the school, could lose the revenues that come from those spaces. This in turn could force costs up for other children’s care — some estimate by as much as 30 percent. In order to stay afloat, many centres would like to take in more infants and toddlers, but to do so requires retrofits they can’t afford.

I recently hosted a public meeting to look closely at the problem, and identify possible solutions. Over 100 residents of Toronto-Danforth joined myself and our panel of guests: city councillors Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis; Toronto District School Board trustees Cathy Dandy and Sheila Cary-Meagher; Andrea Calver from the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare; and Carrie McQuaig from the Atkinson Foundation, a researcher for the Pascal Report (which led to the creation of full-day early learning in Ontario).

A lot of information was shared and many questions asked by parents and childcare providers in attendance, but in the end the path forward was clear.

First, we must hold the McGuinty government to account, pressing them urgently for leadership, and for transition funding to stabilize the childcare sector. Secondly, the school boards and the City of Toronto have a lot of power here in finding workable solutions, and our elected representatives are committed to doing what they can to ensure positive solutions are found. Thirdly, we must not wait for the province, but instead work together, at the local level, site by site, to find workable solutions that ensure an expansion of early learning and childcare opportunities, not a retraction. Some of this has already begun.

I will be working closely with your city councillors and school board trustees to support our children, families, schools and childcare throughout this critical period. As provincial education critic, I will also work closely with our caucus and the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare to push for adequate transition funding provincewide, so what should be an exciting new development in our education system does not become a childcare crisis.

Working families in Toronto-Danforth deserve this support.

About this article:

By: Peter Tabuns
Posted: Feb 24 2012 2:10 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto